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A talk you should hear tonight
by Scott Dickensheets | posted April 24, 2014

Book cover

In May 2012, I interviewed the artist who paints under the name Biscuit Street Preacher. What struck me the most, in addition to the joyful fracas of his art, was the way he described his home life. It sounded like an ongoing, free-flowing conga line of family creativity, with him painting in the living-room studio (no TV!) while his wife and child pursued their own projects, there in the same room, the whole thing occasionally interrupted by bouts of spontaneous dancing. Minus the dancing, it sounded like an enviously creative balance he’d struck. Man, I thought, he’s not only committed to his art, he has integrated it wholly into his life.

More recently, a variation of that idea underpinned Desert Companion’s package of stories about the homes of some creative Las Vegans. The idea was, This is how some inventive people mirror their creative impulses in the places they live. It’s the same appeal, for instance, that drive some viewers to the home profiles on a website like apartmenttherapy.com, where all sorts of offbeat people — artists and designers, sure, but a lot of people who just want creatively nourishing environments, too — display their handiwork. In a bafflingly complex, hyperlinked, tech-driven, often dehumanizing world, it can be a challenge to maintain your creative spirit, regardless of what line of work you’re in.

Which brings us to tonight. At Trifecta Gallery downtown, Sharon M. Louden — editor of Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists — will lead a discussion on that theme. The book — “factual, plain testimonials of how artists sustain their creative livings without giving advice” — will provide a starting point for the sterling panel: New York artist Ash Ferlito and Las Vegans Anne Hoff, Alisha Kerlin and David Ryan.

While it’s at an art gallery and features artists, the discussion is sure to be relevant to anyone who wants to live in a less ordinary way.

Doors open at 6, the panel begins at 7 and there will be a book-signing afterward. Trifecta Gallery is in the Arts Factory, 107 E. Charleston Blvd.

 



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Getting into the 'eco-sexual' position
by Heidi Kyser | posted April 23, 2014

As Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle wrapped their arms and legs around a tree in UNLV’s Xeric Garden this afternoon and Sprinkle quipped, “We often have treesomes,” it all came together — sexology and ecology, lighthearted lasciviousness and serious activism. The pair of self-described sexecologists was, literally, hugging a tree. And yet, it felt more pornographic than environmental, perhaps because, leading up to the tree hug, they'd already felt up a yucca plant and licked a rock.

I’d been struggling to wrap my own mind around their concept since Tuesday evening’s lecture, “Assuming the Ecosexual Position,” an installment of UNLV’s University Forum series and the first of four Las Vegas events Stephens and Sprinkle are doing in celebration of Earth Day. There, they told a jam-packed room how they met, collaborated as artists, fell in love and — over the course of a 7-year performance project called the Love Art Laboratory — came to be the spokespeople for the erotic environmental movement.

The couple was far more entertaining than the lecture series status quo. Narrating a slide from the day they became domestic partners at San Francisco City Hall, Sprinkle said it happened because “we fell madly, deeply in love.” “Also, I had health insurance at my job,” Stephens added, without missing a beat. The full meaning of the statement would come later in the presentation — during the part about Sprinkle’s experience with breast cancer, which, true to form, she and her partner turned into an art project and meticulously documented on film.

Despite the engaging balance of levity and gravity, though, I didn’t get the point of what they were doing. The art was rich and provocative, but their description of it suggested it was meant to elicit more than shock or introspection; there was a hint of activism — but to what end? I started to grasp the answer during the Q&A following the lecture, when one student asked how their work confronted class issues, something they’d mentioned earlier, in passing.

“We’re trying to involve people who don’t usually get involved,” Stephens said. “Annie (a former prostitute and porn star who has advocated for such workers’ rights) has a whole sex-worker contingent that doesn’t usually get involved in environmental issues. I’m really interested in opening up the conversation to queers. And then there’s artists … Rachel Carson brought her message to housewives who were giving their children milk. Anybody can touch the communities they belong to.”

The message they’re bringing to their community may have come to life during event No. 2: a moonlight wedding ceremony following the lecture in which Stephens and Sprinkle enacted their Vows for Marrying the Earth (e.g., “Every day we promise to taste you and be moved”). Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for that. So, it wasn’t until the “treesome” that I saw, firsthand, what they were all about. And I realized why it wasn’t for me.

Sprinkle and Stephens provide an alternative entrée to environmentalism for people who otherwise might not respect the Earth or lift a finger to protect it – specifically, people who relate to the world through glamour and sex and titillation. I don’t need this entrée, already being someone who respects and works to protect the Earth. The fact that I see it more as a sister than a lover means their approach wouldn’t have drawn me in anyway, but kudos to them for looping in a huge population that the traditional environmental movement has missed. The way things are going, Earth needs all the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and lovers it can get.

The final event of Stephens and Sprinkle’s Las Vegas visit is a screening of their film, “Goodbye Gauley Mountain,” a documentary about mountain top removal mining in Stephens’ home state of West Virgina. It takes place this evening (April 23), 7-9 p.m., at The Center.



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An eco-nerd reflects on Earth Day
by Heidi Kyser | posted April 22, 2014

Earth Day in Clark County started with a warning from the Department of Air Quality: 25-35 mps winds are stirring up dust and ozone, making time outdoors a bad idea for “sensitive groups.” It fits with my mood this April 22.

Scanning the press releases I’ve received about Earth Day events, I grow as ill-humored as the weather. Most encourage some type of consumerism, and a couple blatantly capitalize on the holiday with no apparent environmental benefit at all.

If you really must shop, it’s obviously best to use the Clean Energy Project’s “Buy Green List,” released today with 50 purveyors of coffee, insurance, antiques and other stuff by eco-friendly businesses. Or, you could go to Town Square this weekend and learn how to replace disposable products with reusable ones.

Some events – such as the University Forum Lecture this evening at UNLV, “Assuming the Ecosexual Position: Making the Environmental Movement More Sexy, Fun and Diverse” — are at least educational. And a BOGO ticket promotion at the Monorail could entice some Strip visitors to park their cars and try the lower-carbon option of public transportation.

But that’s as far outside our comfort zone as we’re expected to go, apparently. Few of the week’s events and promotions require a truly meaningful effort on the part of participants. And none captures the essence of the original 1970 manifestation, for which millions of Americans, of all political stripes, took to the streets to raise awareness of pollution.  

That’s the kind of agitation I’d expect in reaction to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s March 31 report bearing this cheery news: “The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate… There are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.” Simply replacing your light bulbs, in other words, isn’t going to do the trick.

And we’re capable of much more, as was proven recently in Southern Nevada. For Earth Day 2012, the Moapa Band of Paiutes led a group of Native Americans in a three-day Cultural Healing Walk to protest coal pollution in their community. Just a couple weeks earlier, NV Energy had announced plans to begin closing its coal-fired plants in favor of renewable energy. That’s what I call an Earth Day!

But there’s plenty more work to be done; it’s obvious from the fact that our malls still feel they have to teach shoppers the difference between disposable and reusable products. I’m afraid anyone who hasn’t figured that out yet is a long way from joining the green revolution that today was intended to be.



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